Hawks problem is mirror image, not MVP

Yes, Derrick Rose is magnificent. Yes, he torched the Atlanta Hawks. This is what League MVPs do. You can’t stop them forever, you can only hope to slow them up. As Derrick Rose championed his team’s cause with 44 points on the way to a 99-82 victory, the casual observor would likely give the Chicago point guard all the credit.

The casual observor would be wrong, and that is not taking anything away from Rose, who had a fabulous bounce back game.

Chinks in the False Armor

Is there ever more cause for consternation than a team of guys who lose a game, and then can’t agree onwhy they lost, or what they need to do to win? It seems that we Hawks fans would be used to this by now, but then…should anybody have to get used to it? Courtesy of the inestimable Michael Cunningham (Hawks beat writer), the below post game quotes show the typical post-loss splintering of the Hawks’ psyche:

J.J. didn’t like the offensive approach: “It just seemed as if a lot of times we just ran a lot of pick-and-rolls and I was just kind of buried in the corner. I just thought we played into their hands. We didn’t do anything, I thought, to get our scorers the basketball to make plays. They come with the double team and they make us give it up. We can’t win like that. If you look at Game 1 it was nothing like that. Obviously they made adjustments but at the same time we have to stick with what got us here.” 

Honestly, I just got to force the issue,” Joe said. “In Game 4, I am definitely going to do that. I am not going to succumb to the double team and give it up every time because that’s what they want. We are playing right into their hands. I blame myself for that.”

Okay, so Joe knows that the double team strategy is killing the Hawks, but does he have the right answer? Does forcing the issue mean he’s going to hold the ball longer, or is he going to make the other team pay for doubling him? Here’s the problem – he can’t do that alone. If guys continue to stand around when he or Jamal get doubled, nothing will change. Well, except for the frustration factor, which will only go up.

And now the second team captain speaks:

Al: “We had too much one-on-one. When you do that, this team is too good defensively. We just need to do a better job moving the ball and running the offense the right way. If one guy is not running the offense right, it’s not going to work for others. So I think that’s our biggest problem right now on the offensive end.”

Al is telling the truth, but is he owning his contribution to the problem? It seems to me that the one-on-one was a result, at least in part, of other guys not stepping up and contributing offense. So who is Al blaming for not running the offense right? Jeff Teague? Joe Johnson? Jamal Crawford? Here’s the naked truth – 2nd year man Teague is easily having a better series than two-time all-star Al.

Funny thing is, our sometimes scapegoat sixth man gets it:

Whenever I’m at the top of the key, I see a second defender,” [Jamal] said. “They’re coming until I pass the ball. They’re kind of taking it out of my hands. That’s fine. I just want to make sure that we make them pay because we have an advantage
somewhere out there with two guys on me. if we don’t make them pay, then they’re going to continue to do it.”

Pain in the Paint

Of course, the Hawks aren’t just having offensive problems. And, they’re all too willing to focus on how they’re going to contain Derrick Rose. But, I contend – it’s not Rose that is beating them. Rose is magnifying Atlanta’s real problem, and that is the unwillingness to get down and dirty with the Bulls. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are good rebounders and hard workers, but neither guy fits the description of a goon or an enforcer. The same goes for Carlos Boozer, who has the look but hardly the mentality (much to the chagrin of Chicago fans). So what is the problem? Why are Al, Josh, and Marvin having problems with them on the glass? It isn’t athletic ability. It’s not health. As Hawks fan Astro Joe reminded me, it’s all HEART. Josh Smith showed more of this in last night’s game, but it wasn’t enough, and like with his cohort Al Horford, it came too late.

What makes this worse is the paltry performances from Chicago’s Carlos Boozer. Hawks fans aggravated with Josh Smith have something in common with Bulls fans in regard to Boozer, even though he has his teammates’ support. The Bulls’ power forward was supposed to be the #2 scoring option for Chicago, and has 20 point/10 rebound potential. The fact that he has only lived up to about half of that (the rebounding) only makes the Hawks’ low post shenanigans all the more heinous.

Face the Mirror

 Rose won’t score 44 points every night. His teammates are limited. But what they are capable of, the Hawks have allowed them to do only too well. The Bulls are winning the game by not letting the Hawks go with option #1 on offense (let their 2 shooting guards do most of the work), and by beating the Hawks literally everywhere else in the game. There is no excuse for this. You can’t beat the MVP on most nights. But you can beat his teammates.

That’s what the Hawks have to do to win.

Drew Adjustments

If Larry Drew wants physicality and the Hawks don’t provide it early on in game 4, he would be well served to inject Damien Wilkins and especially Zaza Pachulia into the game. There isn’t a single Hawk who works harder and more consistently on the glass and gets better position than Pachulia. He won’t back down from Chicago’s slender bigs (only Boozer is a thick body), and will likely leave some bruises as well. Wilkins probably can’t do a lot on the glass, but he’ll make thing tough in the driving lanes for Rose if he’s anywhere nearby, and he won’t do worse than Marvin Williams, who seems to have found himself on the back of a milk carton again. Besides, it may help light a fire under the starters if they have to watch the game from the bench for a while.

On the offensive side of the ball, the only answer to solving the Bulls’ defensive adjustments is to attack quickly, make the extra pass, make the SMART pass, and take smarter shots.

Of course, the question is whether or not the Hawks can all realize this at the same time, and put it into action.

 

Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest Blog

135 comments Add your comment

doc

May 9th, 2011
9:50 am

thibs works the refs almost as much as rivers does. man he is on them all the time for saying they do such a good job. ;-) he yells at them much more than his own team. i would prefer a coach more verbal and then tell his team to sfu to refs and he will do the talking for them.

O'Brien

May 9th, 2011
9:51 am

doc

May 9th, 2011
9:52 am

o’b thanks for the bibby update. except for a brief flash he has been as awful there as he was here his last two months. he may regret putting aside 6 mil if they dont win a championship.

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
10:07 am

Great win last night. In addition to Tegaue’s play, it is interesting to watch his personality unfold. He is showing some emotion on the court instead of that previous “whatever” demeanor.

No need to comment on Josh’s game… everyone knows that he is the one who most often stops (and starts) himself. He decides if good/bad Josh shows up on a quarter-to-quarter basis, we’re all being held hostage by his personal dysfunction. A caller this morning suggested that Woody should not have called him “Smoove”, it was a fair and interesting point… even though JOsh played a little more like good Josh under Woody than he has under LD. But nonetheless, a fair point to suggest that Josh’s alter-ego shouldn’t be enabled by his head coach (or teammates for that matter).

I took the time to watch a few plays on the DVR when Joe was doubled team. I suggest that you all do the same. In some cases, Joe was clearly very slow moving the ball. In most cases, his teammates literally did NOT move. No cuts, no attempts to create a passing lane, they just stood there, looking at Joe try to do something with 4 arms encasing him. Kind of like a WR who makes no adjustment when his QB is being blitzed and then wonders why he didn’t receive a pass while running 40 yards up the field. Very frustrating.

LD gets credit for the Twin line-up yesterday. Even when it doesn’t seem like that would be the best line-up, they tend to be so much better defensively that one has to believe that LD should never revert back to the regular version.

Meanwhile, sign me up for acquiring Andrew Bynum. Yes, he is an injury risk. But virtually every Hawk is a mental risk. And trade Hinrich… he is still considered a starting PG and that is too valuable to keep on the bench next season. I’d rather see Sund go with a more traditional 4-guard rotation than what we’ve done the past several seasons.

Did anyone see Barkley at halftime? One only wonders if his mean-spirited attack on Josh will help or hurt. But it was funny. Very funny.

And Sund needs to go get Bynum while he is being villafied in LA (in case I didn’t mention that previously).

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
10:13 am

It seemed like LD was quietly calling out Joe for not studying game film (based on his pre-Game 4 comments). We certainly haven’t seen that before… I’m usually not a fan of using the media to communicate to players but I appreciate his attempt to reach the too-often stoic Joe by any means necessary.

O'Brien

May 9th, 2011
10:26 am

AJ,

I really like Teague’s new found dog. From espn.com;

There was second-year point guard Jeff Teague, in the middle of the first quarter Sunday night, shouting back at an assistant coach after he was taken out of the game, presumably for a mistake he didn’t believe was his fault..

I hope he is able to nurture it and allow it to continue to grow leading up to next season.

As for Barkley, somebody should have called him out after the game. Prior to the game, he said Hawks had no chance because Rose made it to the arena.

And I am on board with getting Bynum. But I don’t think we have anything that LA wants (especially with Dwight Howard out there).

O'Brien

May 9th, 2011
10:27 am

And I like the fact that LD is willing to try different things (different lineups, calling JJ and Josh out in the media) etc.

niremetal

May 9th, 2011
10:45 am

It’s so, so clear at this point that LD is a better playoff coach than Woody. He makes adjustments on a game to game and even quarter to quarter basis, and it shows. Thibodeau’s move in the chess match next. Thibodeau adjusted to game 1 by pulling out the Jordan Rules on JJ and Jamal and freeing D-Rose to come off multiple screens. LD flipped the script last night by getting better spacing on offense and by trapping D-Rose off screens on defense. Now it’s Thibs’ move in the chess match. But really, this series will come down to whether the Hawks can continue to play smart and hard like they did last night. If the Bulls can’t dominate the glass or get the hustle points, it’s tough to see how they can beat the Hawks. 60 wins or no, it’s clear that the Hawks have a more balanced team when the play the right way.

doc

May 9th, 2011
10:55 am

AJ, it wasnt woody but the gosh dern askg organization has called him j smoove with every frigging basket or introduction. it is the problem in the organization to tap into that stuff. i dont think even as enabling an organization the cavs were with labron they didnt announce “the king!”, every time he did anything from pick up talc or make a half court bucket. you know i have long seen the promise in josh, seen his head issues, pleading to get him to a sports psychologist in much the way john smoltz used one to overcome his own demons but most emphatically, i have DEPLORED that nickname to where i NEVER refer to him as such. it is either josh smith or J SMASH for me.

J SMASH turned up last night. let the heavens open up.

i guess AJ, you have also criticized LD for not holding those guys accountable. it seems behind closed doors he has and it is if since that wasnt working he has begun to get their attention in the media. that is a very tough road to take and may backfire; for now that seems to be what LD is doing for all the world to see.

woody sort of did the same thing but more on the team but didnt hold back when it came to josh like letting everyone know and have josh say out loud that he would not do the three point thing last year. woody would say things like get 50 wins, be elite and get to the second round. that last one was his undoing as it was like mark richt with the best team in the land by si saying all he wanted was to get to the sec championship and it would take care of itself. goals dont work that way, do they?

barkley can say whatever he wants as it is very entertaining what he says. none of those guys get it right anyway any more than we do here. in fact we may get it righter than them or ld. heh heh

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
10:55 am

nire, no doubt about LD over Woody. Both are/were forced to spend too much time focused on energy, effort and execution, but LD is better once he gets that energy, effort and execution. Woody was probably better at coaxing those 3Es from the team but didn’t meet that with the proper game plan/adjustments. I’d still choose “none of the above” if we could have a do over… but I will enjoy the ride until next summer.

doc

May 9th, 2011
11:08 am

nire, we have to do what no other team or teams were unable to do this season if we are to win this thing and show the superiority you suggest. that is to win two in a row from them. they went the whole season without losing two in a row.

nice that it took rose so many shots to get his points which came in spurts it seemed.

since i was at the game, i would like to know what barkley said about josh and if it hit the mark.

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
11:22 am

doc, when they went to the TNT Studio at halftime, Barkey was on the set wearing a helmet that read “Test Dumbie”. He then said something to the affect that when Josh Smith takes jumpers, that he is a “Test Dumbie”. (And yes, C-Webb did ask about “Dum-bie”). He also suggested that the safety helmet is needed for fans in the front row whn Josh takes those ill-advised jumpers. He complemented Josh’s overall abilities and tried to stay focused on his commentary only related to shooting jumpers. Kenny Smith also used his film segment to discuss Josh’s decision-making, both when he decided to drive into the paint and do something good and when he settled for a long jumper. I’m sure that their half-time segment is available somewhere for you to observe online. But the notion that his shot selection was being associated with a mindless test dummy was pretty insulting. (And seeing Barkley in the goofy-looking helmet was very funny).

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
11:26 am

doc

May 9th, 2011
11:43 am

as far as apologies barkley gave one and they laid two huge eggs after game one. barkley needs to keep up his act if it means josh and the team plays better.

NBA Mafia

May 9th, 2011
11:43 am

D Rose gets calls like Jordan .So what if one referee blows a call. Guess he wasn’t in the loop.

doc

May 9th, 2011
11:48 am

thanks aj very funny indeed. i hope josh can laugh at it as he continues his inside rampage and takes the team to the ecf. i also hope the prove em wrong josh doesnt show up and josh now knows where the bait is attracted to, the area between his ears.

niremetal

May 9th, 2011
12:02 pm

O’B,

That was a great article on ESPN. EXCELLENT article. I gotta say though, that this is frustrating to see after a game like last night:

“When people who don’t understand the game or know the game [criticize me], it really doesn’t faze me,” Smoove responded when Smith was asked how he handles the terse reaction from fans to his struggles on the court.

Ok. What about criticism from your teammates, coaches, commentators, and basketball luminaries? Do Hubie Brown, Mike Fratello, Jack Ramsay, Kenny Smith, Jeff Van Gundy, and probably the ghosts of Chuck Daly and Red Auerbach all not understand the game? It’s worrying to see these types of quotes after a game like last night, where Josh went 1-6 on long jumpers but DOMINATED in the paint, because Josh still seems to think that he needs to prove the doubters about his perimeter game wrong rather than simply rendering their doubts irrelevant.

Josh’s focus needs to be on dominating with his strengths, not on trying to prove that he has no weaknesses. So yeah, Josh needs to give Smoove a blindfold and a cigarette and let Smith take over his body full time.

O'Brien

May 9th, 2011
12:31 pm

doc,

I think Josh will use it as motivation to continue to take (and hopefully make) jumpers to prove Barkley wrong.

The reason for the Lakers coming apart? They didn’t have Josh Powell :smile:

O'Brien

May 9th, 2011
12:34 pm

nire,

I thought the same thing. Just when you think the light bulb is on in Josh’s head, he says something to make you realize that he still doesn’t know when to turn the switch on or off.

kwooden

May 9th, 2011
12:47 pm

Game 1 was the best I’ve ever seen this team, play, but last nights performance is 1 better! JJ knocked down open 3’s, Teague finished at the rim (especially in the 2nd half) and Josh did his thing! But more then anything else they executed on offensive. They really made Chicago pay for their double teams and aggressiveness on shooters. Horford and Collins had at least 5 dunks because of extra passes out of double teams. Josh pushing the ball off rebounds made a hugh difference, but the real value was in just getting the rebound. Also, I really liked what Kenny said at half-time about Josh closing space on the defenders. If he can drive and get either Gibson or Boozer back peddling he can get to the foul line on 80% of his drives.

I think the Bulls adjustments for tomorrow night will be quicker passes from Rose out of double teams and for the bigs to try and stay home more on their double teams of JJ and Jamal. We need to keep rebounding the ball and attacking the double team with quick one dribble jumpers or quick passes to the high or low post. Jeff has to stay aggressive also, hit 1 or 2 jumpers and drive hard to the basket!

We’re learning to get better, I hope the growth continues tomorrow night.

GO HAWKS!!

kwooden

May 9th, 2011
12:54 pm

As for Smoove vs Smith, I think Josh is who he is. Very similar to Lamar Odom, in terms of talent and not bring it every night. (or just can’t bring it every night!) Josh is a rhythm player, like some guys are rhythm jump shooters or streaky jump shooters. When his rhythm isn’t right, he stands around, runs back on defensive slow and doesn’t get rebounds. When he’s in rhythm, the jump hook looks good, his passes look crisp and he’s rebounding. He needs to consistently get himself in rhythm, but only he can do that. I think his teamates can help a little, but they’ve got their own problems to deal with.

Melvin

May 9th, 2011
1:55 pm

Look as if the guy LD was hesitant to play may have saved his job. M-V-Teague… LOL

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
2:10 pm

Melvin, or LD is saving Teague from an Acie Law career. LOL.

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
2:15 pm

Or Marcus Williams (former 1st round pick out of UCONN).

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
3:47 pm

IMO, Sund’s job is to understand why Jamal’s statement is true and then do something about it. Since it is not likely a coaching issue alone, then find the players who contribute to this and move them. (I suspect that trading away Bibby was one of the first steps toward that goal).

Jamal Crawford sums up #Hawks: “We’ve shown we can play with anybody, and some nights we can play with nobody.”

niremetal

May 9th, 2011
3:52 pm

Trading Smoove will be step 2, Astro. Unless Josh can figure out a way to exorcise Smoove from himself.

poobear jenkins

May 9th, 2011
4:02 pm

Coach make teague the starting 1 guard from now on period !!!!!!!!

Melvin

May 9th, 2011
4:38 pm

Josh Smith on booing #Hawks fans: “They expect a lot out of me but they have to understand I’m a human being.”

Melvin

May 9th, 2011
4:50 pm

Astro,

I think step 2 for Sund should be to acquire some adequate depth. So when Josh wants to turn into JSmoove, you can sub him for a Gibson, Big Baby, Blair type level player. Or when Marvin wants to disappear you can sub him for a Brewer, Krover, Barnes or Posey level type player and another quality big guy would help as well. I think we are set at the guards spots with Joe, Jamal, Jeff and Kirk…

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
4:53 pm

nire, would you trust that the exorcism is complete based on whatever may happen over the remainder of this postseason? That is the thing… if he is good Josh for 80% of the remainder of the minutes, do you roll the dice that he has turned the corner and keep him?

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
5:02 pm

Melvin, with some type of salary restriction (whatever the new CBA says), finding quality back-ups may be challenging. So while I understand that “cautionary approach”, I’m not sure that we can afford Jamal AND a quality big like Big Bay AND a quality SF like Korver. With double-digit salaries invested in Joe, Josh and Al and another $15M in Hinrich/Marvin, I’m fairly sure that we can’t do it all within the budget constraints. We’d need for someone like Ike Diogu or Jarvis Hayes (or some other minimum wage vet) to far exceed their historic performances. And that seems doubtful.

mykhalc

May 9th, 2011
5:05 pm

to follow niremetal’s point, after enjoyin’ Josh’s performance and the team’s performance last nite, just listenin’ to his post game and First Take interview this morning, all i can say is the Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde has gone NOWHERE!!! he is who he is…

and Joe, how many times over the last 3 yrs did we think Josh ahd turned the corner? just askin’…

Astro Joe

May 9th, 2011
5:14 pm

mykhalc, I’m just asking the question. I’ve been leading the “he ain’t gonna get much better/saner” parade for years around these parts. But honestly, I’m checking out Zach Randolph’s recovery from the brink and I’m wondering if this unprecedented backlash on “Smoove” may be the catalyst to something. At the same time, I have often theorized that Josh’s road to self-actualization may not EVER happen in Atlanta. Many a young man had to leave home to “find themselves” and Josh may be no different. His final wake-up call may require a one-way ticket out of Atlanta. The overall temperature of the blog world (around these parts) has always been pro-Josh.. just checking to see if things have really changed and folk are truly ready to rid themselves of Jekyll/Hyde.

mykhalc

May 9th, 2011
5:41 pm

Joe, oh man i know. i was merely askin’ how many times we’ve asked it amongst ourselves? quite a bit i believe.

my 2cents, based on my readin’ between the lines at LD’s presser after the game…Josh ain’t goin’ nowhere…especially if LD is here…just my gut on this one tho…

vava74

May 10th, 2011
8:06 am

Let’s make a wager on the number of long jumpers Josh will launch tonight and the number of misses off those jumpers:

I’ll start: 8 but he will hit 5.

He is bound to break out of his slump and have one of those 2 games out of 10 in which his shot is good.

But my guess is that we will lose by double digits tonight.

In game 4 CHI did not bring their overalls and we did. I expect a much much much more hardworking CHI team tonight and, as SVG said, we tough when we get up but once we get down…